AirAsia divers to search for Gisela today

By: Benjie Talisic, Nestle L. Semilla June 11,2017 - 11:35 PM

SEARCH FOR GISELA. Groups of scuba divers (left photo) from the maritime police, Lapu-Lapu City Risk Reduction Disaster Management Council, and Korean volunteers join in the search for the body of Mayor Gisela Boniel in the Olango Channel. Above, Philippine Navy personnel check the map showing the depth of the general area of the Olango Channel where the body of the Bien Unido mayor was allegedly dumped.

THE former colleagues in an airline company of missing and presumed dead Bien Unido Mayor Gisela Bendong-Boniel will join the operation to find and retrieve the body from where it was dumped in the waters off Mactan Island in Cebu.

Senior Supt. Jonathan Cabal, chief of the Philippine National Police’s Regional Intelligence Division in Central Visayas (RID-7), said AirAsia Inc. will provide divers and equipment that will be used in today’s search and retrieval operation.

Mayor Boniel was considered as one of the faces of the airline being its first female pilot, a career she gave up when she ran and won as mayor of Bien Unido in May 2016, a post previously held by her husband and now main suspect in her death, Bohol Provincial Board (PB) Member Niño Rey Boniel.

The operation by AirAsia’s volunteer divers will come a day ahead of the resumption of the government’s own search and retrieval operation, which was suspended on Sunday due to lack of equipment for a deep sea search.

Mark Anthony Colina, commanding Officer of the Naval Special Operation Unit 5 in Central Visayas that is under the Naval Forces Central (Navforcen), told Cebu Daily News by phone on Sunday that they expected to receive any time today the sonar and other sophisticated equipment that will be needed for a deep sea search.

At least 18 expert divers, both from the government and volunteers, had been searching in vain for Gisela’s body since Thursday, diving to as deep as 200 feet. They believed her body must have fallen in a deep trench along the Olango Channel that could no longer be reached by humans.

Colina said they would likely be using the same equipment that were used during the Navy’s retrieval operation of the remains of the late Interior and Local Government Secretary Jessie Robredo who died in a plane crash in the waters off Masbate City on Aug. 18, 2012.

He said they also still have to meet today with the officers and personnel from the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO- 7), Lapu-Lapu City Police Office (LLCPO) and the police’s Regional Intelligence Division in Central Visayas (RID-7) who are involved in the effort to find the body of the mayor.

Colina said the equipment to be used on the retrieval operation — a side scan scanner and a remove operating vehicle (ROV) — will come from the Naval Special Operations Group, which is based in Naval Base Heraclio Alano, the Philippine Navy’s main headquarters located in Sangley point in Cavite City.

Senior Supt. Rommel Cabagnot, LLCPO director, said they initially set at 5 a.m. today the resumption for the search of Mayor Boniel’s body, but they decided to wait first for the arrival of the ROV, which is a kind of underwater robot that can reach a depth that could no longer be reached by divers.

He said suspect-turned-witness Riolito “Etad” Boniel would no longer be asked to join the search.

It was Etad who led authorities to the site in Olango Channel where he said he and three others — allegedly including PB Member Boniel — dumped the body of the mayor at dawn of June 7, Wednesday.

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TAGS: AirAsia, divers, Gisela, search, today

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